I'm following this guide on how to set up passwordless SSH authentication with ssh-agent.

To start up ssh-agent the author recommends the following code in .bash_profile:

if [ -z "$SSH_AUTH_SOCK" -a -x "$SSHAGENT" ]; then
    trap "kill $SSH_AGENT_PID" 0

I don't understand why it is trapping signal 0. According to man 7 signal there is no such signal.

Is this just a typo or bug or does this really achieve something?


From the bash manual:

trap [-lp] [[arg] sigspec ...]

... If a sigspec is EXIT (0) the command arg is executed on exit from the shell.

  • 12
    Correct. In case a reader came here because of the question's title, note that this is the meaning of 0 in a shell trap command. When sending a signal with kill, a signal number of 0 means not to send a signal after all; this is a way of testing the existence of the target process. – Gilles Jul 24 '11 at 14:00
  • @Mat: Thanks a lot. I was reading man 1 trap... – Christoph Wurm Jul 24 '11 at 14:30
  • 1
    But it's not in the list output by trap -l! – amphetamachine Jul 25 '11 at 8:59
  • can you please address the case when the script is sourced? – Eric May 1 at 8:31

As @Mat shows in his answer, a SIGSPEC of 0, when used on the trap command will cause the trap command to run when the script exits.

This example illustrates what happens.

$ cat tr.bash 

echo "PID: $$"

trap 'echo hi; exit 1' 0 1 2 15

while [ 1 ]; do
    sleep 3

When we run this:

$ ./tr.bash 
PID: 24086

It sits here waiting indefinitely. In another window if we now send kill signals to it you'll see that a kill -0 will not kill the process, even though signal 0 is listed in the trap command.

$ kill -0 $(pgrep tr.bash)

However if we kill the script using signal 1, kill -1:

$ kill -1 $(pgrep tr.bash)

We'll see that the script exits, and prints the message, "hi" 2 times. The first for signal 1, and the second because the script exited.

$ ./tr.bash 
PID: 24086

trap on 0 is run when the shell exits. It is commonly used to clean up tmp files in one place that is always executed:


trap 'rm -f $tmp; exit' 0 1 2 15



the exit at the end of the trap exits the shell at the cleanup with the right status.

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